Shares of Reliance Industries (RIL) fell 0.4% in opening trade on Monday, snapping two sessions gaining streak, amid a report that Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate has signed a binding agreement with Walt Disney Co to merge their media operations in India. As per the deal, the media unit of Reliance and its affiliates are likely to own a majority stake of 61% in the merged entity, while Disney will hold the remaining shares. Disney has reportedly decided to sell its 61% shares in India business to Viacom 18, the media arm of RIL, at a valuation of $3.9 billion (₹33,000 crore).

Disney is facing challenges in its digital business in India after the company lost the digital rights for the popular Indian Premier League last year (IPL) tournament from 2023-2027 even as it successfully won broadcast TV rights. Viacom 18 outwitted them with their winning bid of ₹5,966 crore for both TV and digital rights. The loss of IPL’s digital rights resulted in a 25%-30% erosion of the subscriber base of Disney Hotstar.

Last year, Viacom18 Media had completed a deal worth ₹15,145 crore for strategic partnership with Bodhi Systems, the content platform of media baron James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and former Disney India Executive Uday Shankar, and a consortium of global investors including Paramount Global to form one of the largest TV and digital streaming companies in India. Viacom18 Media is one of India’s fastest growing entertainment networks that owns and operates the suite of Colors TV channels and OTT platform, VOOT. It has a portfolio of 38 channels across general entertainment, movies, sports, youth, music, and kids in India.

Reacting to the news, Reliance shares declined as much as 0.44% to ₹2,973.05, against the previous closing price of ₹2,986.35 on the BSE. The stock witnessed profit booking at higher levels as it touched all-time high of ₹2,996.15 in intraday trade on Friday. RIL, the country’s most valued stock, has risen 15% in the calendar year 2024, outperforming the benchmark Sensex which gained over 1% during the same period.

RIL shares have risen nearly 49% against its 52-week low of ₹2,012.14 touched on March 20, 2023. The stock rallied 26% in the past 12 months and over 21% in six months. Earlier this month, its market capitalisation crossed ₹20 lakh crore, and it became the first Indian company to achieve this milestone. It took Reliance Industries around 19 years to reach from ₹1 lakh crore m-cap to ₹20 lakh crore. The data shows RIL had hit ₹1 lakh crore market cap way back in August 2005 and ₹5 lakh crore m-cap in 2017. The ₹10-lakh crore in market value was achieved in November 2019, while the ₹15 lakh crore m-cap was reached in September 2021. 

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